5 things we learned from the 2017 Rugby League World Cup

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Now the dust has settled on the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, it is time to reflect on what it all amounted to.

Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at the major talking points surrounding the 15th tournament, which – after 28 matches across three countries – went the way of the Australians for an 11th time.

Wayne Bennett is a popular man

If he takes any heed of the sentiments of his players, Wayne Bennett might just be persuaded to stay on as England head coach now that his contract has run out. The grumpy Australian has little time for the media but, to a man, the players have all spoken highly of him. It may be obvious, why would they criticise the man who picks the team? But there is a genuine warmth when they speak of his joviality and man-management skills, traits of the 67-year-old Queenslander few outsiders could imagine.

England have a pack to match the best

The performances underlined what we already knew, that England have a pack of forwards that are as good, if not better, than those of any team in the world. James Graham, England’s most capped player, continues to be a phenomenon and Chris Hill flew the flag for Super League as he grew in stature throughout the tournament, Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead demonstrated that their time with Canberra in the NRL has taken their games to a new level and Sam Burgess is, well Sam Burgess, a player who lifts his team-mates with his wholehearted commitment and bravery.

New world’s best winger

Ryan Hall was happy to hand over the unofficial title of the world’s best winger to his England team-mate Jermaine McGillvary, who has been the name on most people’s lips throughout the World Cup. Apart from his remarkable try-scoring feat, the Huddersfield flyer caught the eye with his strong carries out of defence, invariably evading the first tackle and putting England on the front foot. There is no doubt that, if he was interested, a host of NRL clubs would be clamouring for his signature. The good news for Huddersfield is that he is a home bird who for now has no desire to take his family to Australia.

End of an era for the Kangaroos

Australia scrum-half Cooper Cronk dropped a bombshell straight after the final by announcing his retirement from representative football, following the lead set by his old half-back partner Johnathan Thurston, who missed the World Cup through injury. Full-back Billy Slater hinted that he may also have played his last match in the green and gold so the famous spine of the Kangaroos and Queensland teams is breaking up, although captain Cameron Smith is showing no sign of giving it up.

A present-day immortal

Cameron Smith’s 2017 season has been nothing short of phenomenal, lifting every team and individual award there is to win in a single calendar year. He made history by becoming the first player to captain his club, state and country to success and, as recognition, was named the Golden Boot winner for the second time in the run-up to the final. Now 34, he is within touching distance of Darren Lockyer’s record of 59 Test caps, although to set a new mark he would have to play on in 2019 with Australia only due to play one game next year.

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